Google pictures of any celebrity these days, and you will see tons of red carpet photos with them standing there in their finest. Google any address of a home currently for sale, and you might hope for similar results. In many cases, however, you will be disappointed.
There are certain immutable characteristics for every red-carpet shot: Celebrities are well-dressed, standing in a pose designed to show off their outfit or some physical attribute and, if applicable, holding an award. Most importantly, these pictures are crystal-clear, shot on professional equipment by experienced photographers.
Why not have the same standards for homes for sale? While I understand practices differ from state to state, there should be some irreducible minimums for homes on the market. After all, you would hope that listing agents — who understand their fiduciary responsibilities to the seller and realize they will only have one chance to maximize the price and terms for their clients — would work hard to showcase the home in the best possible light.
The following is a list of what you would expect to see for any home in our market. Again, let me stress that I’m aware practices differ from region to region, and some of what is normal in our market is not practical elsewhere — especially in markets were the average home price is on the lower end of the scale.
Nevertheless, even in an overheated market, the more you can do to maximize a home’s profile online, the higher the chance you will get top dollar and the best terms.
Remember a simple fact: the average buyer is going to give any listing 7 to 10 seconds before deciding to stay and look in more detail or swipe left and move on. It’s critical that those brief moments captivate potential buyers and keep them engaged.
We have learned that the more we can do to effectively prepare our listings for the “red carpet” of the market, the better we set the stage for fully engaged buyers. With this in mind, here are the top 11 things well-dressed homes in our market are wearing.
1. Inspection reports
As little as five years ago, buyers were expected to order inspections once they had a home in contract. In today’s super-hot market with extreme inventory shortages, many markets have seen a shift to sellers providing the reports upfront.
This accomplishes two things: It helps a seller effectively prepare a home and increases the likelihood of “as is” offers. In our case, once the sellers have completed any repairs or fixes called out in the reports, an additional document is provided detailing any corrections made.
2. Property prep
Given that today’s buyers, for the most part, are looking for turnkey homes, certain aspects like kitchens, bathrooms, flooring and paint should get more attention. Buyers are usually willing to pay more for homes that are updated with current touches such as solid surface counters, beautiful bathrooms, modern flooring and so on.
3. Disclosure package
The general rule of thumb is this: The more information you can provide upfront, the better the chances of getting great offers. We make sure we have all the required disclosures completed upfront and readily available to buyers who want to see the home.
Again, I understand that disclosure laws differ from state to state — to the degree your location requires disclosures (approximately 70 pages in California), have them all completed up front. Our disclosure packages normally include the following:
- Completely filled-out mandatory state-required disclosures (varies from state to state).
- Floor plans (produced by Matterport).
- Inspection reports.
- List of upgrades and completed repairs.
- Frequently asked questions (FAQ).
- Natural hazard disclosure (Required in California).
- Preliminary title report.
- Instructions for writing offers.
- HOA packages, if applicable.
- Declaration of Covenants, Conditions and Restrictions (CC&Rs), if applicable.
- Home warranty.
4. Supplemental documents
To ensure we do not have any title issues, we order a preliminary title report upfront to be able to effectively head off any potential issues in a timely manner. If the property is in a trust or the sellers are deceased, we want to see copies of trusts, wills and other documents critical to the sale.
We recently represented buyers who got their offer accepted only to discover that the deceased owner’s supposed will could not be located — meaning the home had to go to probate. Diligent agents work hard to make sure potential issues like this get handled long before the property goes live.
5. Home warranty
In our area, the seller customarily provides a home warranty for the buyer. With this in mind, we put a seller’s home warranty in place as soon as a listing is signed to protect the home during the listing period.
I have lost count of the number of times we have replaced hot water heaters, fixed garbage disposals and other items during the listing period for pennies on the dollar. In our case, once the home is sold, the warranty transfers to the buyer automatically.
It has been proven that staging works, and full professional staging is the norm for virtually every home in our market. Unfortunately, hiring a professional stager is not always in the budget. With six levels of staging, well-dressed homes should have some staging, even if it’s the most minimal amount.
7. Professional pictures
While newer phones all claim to take wonderful pictures, of the thousands of Realtors in our area, I know of only a limited few who know how to effectively frame and take pictures on their own.
Hire a professional who understands how to frame a shot — someone who has the correct equipment to backfill lighting and who knows how to color-correct as necessary.
8. 3D tours
Whether it’s through Matterport or one of the newer platforms, 3D tours make it possible for a buyer to preselect listings before visiting them. They can also help cement buyer decisions by providing the ability to virtually walk from room to room.
As a bonus, if it’s set up properly, you can use the measuring feature on Matterport to take actual measurements of rooms, windows, doorways, etc. They also provide laser-measured floor plans which can be invaluable to potential buyers who wonder if their existing furniture will fit in any given room.
9. Drone shots
Drones have opened up the ability for homes to be viewed in context. They also help potential buyers gauge proximity to streets, parks and the like. Because they look so cool and have so many benefits, we now include drone footage for all of our listings no matter the price point.
We have found a few professional photographers who offer a full suite of services that include magazine-quality stills, 3D, drone and video.
For lower-priced listings, the video can simply be a recap of the listing stills arranged in a pleasing moving format that can be posted to YouTube and other video sites. For more expensive listings or luxury properties — there’s no end to the possibilities.
11. Online access
For years now, we have provided beautiful custom websites generated by our photographers that provide access to the entire photography suite. They also include links to walk scores and other community related information.
With the goal of making the comprehensive disclosure packages as accessible as possible, we use disclosures.io to provide an easy-to-access online portal for agents and their clients to download the entire disclosure package.
While many agents in our region have been phasing out printed brochures for a while, COVID-19 seems to have put a nail in the figurative coffin for handouts at local listings. In their place, our team has begun using virtual brochures that we can dispense in a number of ways.
These virtual brochures can house links to our pictures, 3D tours, drone footage, video, floor plans, neighborhood highlights and so much more. Pages can be added as necessary to produce an online visage that is second to none. They can even include links to the disclosure package, mortgage applications and more.
Getting a home ready to hit the red carpet? Make sure it is dressed to the nines and has its best face forward — it is the best way I know to convert a homeselling client into a raving fan.
Carl Medford is the CEO of The Medford Team.